What is lyric writing? How does a person perform that musical task? What talents does it take? What is the difference between a good songwriter and an outstanding one? Nashville songwriter Kip Allen answers these questions in this article about lyric writing. Call Kip if you are looking for one of the best songwriters, music producers, session drummers, or to mix music.
What is lyric writing?
Lyric writing is a unique form of creative writing, with several important differences that set it apart from other writing forms/genres like writing poetry, fiction, plays, or any other type of literature.
The essential elements of lyric writing include, but are not limited, to the following:
- Written to be vocally performed (usually sung or rapped)
- Written in lines
- Arranged into song sections
- Short and condensed
- Rich in rhyme, repetition, and other poetic techniques
How do you do lyric writing?
There is no one way to write lyrics. Some begin music making with the musical melody and add lyrics afterwards. Some songwriters write the lyrics and then write music to match the rhythm of those lyrics.
There are a few tips which can help you to progress with lyric writing:
- Begin with a central theme or message
- Keep it simple, keep it conversational
- Remember structure and flow
- Choruses are different from verses
- Experiment with tenses, perspective, analogies, approaches, moods
Of course, this is simply a very short list of tips. There are many, many more. If possible, collaborate with other musicians. Listen closely to the lyrics of your favorite musicians. Why are those lyrics memorable? Why do they touch you?
Practice, practice, and then practice some more.
What talents do you need for lyric writing?
Truthfully, and some will argue with this, but I believe very simple lyrics can be written by someone with very little talent, just as simple poems can be written, simple short stories, and the like. Counting syllables does not take a great amount of talent.
Having said that, to be a good lyricist, one must work at one’s craft. There are no overnight successes in the music industry. There are one-hit wonders, but even that group has practiced their craft, honed their craft, and dreamt about their craft. I am still amazed by the number of people who show up in Nashville, fresh off a win at some county fair in Iowa or Maryland or Kansas, convinced that they will set Nashville on fire with their talents. In most cases yes, they are talented, but it takes much more than talent to make it in Nashville and beyond.
What makes a great lyric writer?
If it was simply a matter of talent, there would be countless great lyric writers, some discovered, some waiting to be discovered. But it takes more than talent. It takes, for lack of a better description, the stars to perfectly align for greatness to be claimed. Some very good musicians, very good lyricists, a very good session musician, are never heard of, even after decades of practicing their craft.
What I know about lyric writing and all other forms of musical expression is this: without practicing your craft, your chances of making it in the music industry are close to zero.